Join God’s Adventure

Sometimes the Spirit speaks clearer and louder to us than other times.  Those times typically correlate with how much time we’ve been spending with Him and depending on Him.

So it’s crucial when we are prompted by the Spirit to talk to someone, help someone, serve somewhere, WHATEVER IT IS, that we do it!  When we don’t, we’re not depending on God and that prompting will be a little less clear next time.  When we do depend on God we join God’s adventure to see what He’s going to do THROUGH US and it will be clearer next time.

Why Does the Bible say that God is Jealous?

According to Exodus 20:5 and other verses, God is a jealous God.

Jealousy is so associated with evil that we hesitate to attribute it to God.  Without the testimony and authority of Scripture we would never have accused Him of that.

A jealous nature is not one that commands our admiration.

Francis Bacon speaks of envy as the vilest of passions.  It distorts everything, blinds the vision, and is the mother of profound unhappiness.

Even the Bible is not ignorant of the darker side of jealousy.  Cain and Saul are obvious examples where it causes them ruin.  But even in the New Testament we see it in the disciples and certainly in the scribes and Pharisees.

And yet the Bible, which knows our human hearts and searches out the latent evil in them, assures us of the jealousy of God.

Why?

We begin to see the solution to the difficulty of a jealous God when we recall the connection of jealousy with love.  Jealousy is the shadow cast by love.  That is the difference between jealousy and envy.

Envy, the meaner word, is far broader than jealousy.  It applies to the intellect as well as the heart.  Envy touches relationships where love is never thought of.

A scholar may be envious of another but we don’t say a husband is envious of his wife because marriage is a relationship of love.

God’s essential nature is revealed to us as love.  And if that love flows out upon humanity in an infinite and everlasting mercy, it also, if it be deep and mighty, can scarcely lack the attribute of jealousy.

We are finite creatures and such creatures cannot fulfill another completely. So our jealousy tends to become sinful.

Only God can satisfy the heart.

God’s jealousy was also revealed in Jesus.  As surely as God will tolerate no rival, Jesus Christ would tolerate no rival.  He makes a claim upon the human heart of absolute and unconditional surrender.

Jesus tolerated many things but one thing He NEVER tolerated was the division of His empire (John 5:22; 14:6; Matthew 11:27).  God is ONE.

This doctrine was important because of the prevalence of polytheism whose attractions were many.  So the idea of a jealous God kept the Israelites true to their spiritual leading.

That thought made the world ready for the incarnation.

A jealous God may be a dark conception, but a jealous God can never be indifferent.  Indeed Jesus was so jealous and His love so intense that he braved the cruelty and abuse and humiliation of a cross for us.

7 Reasons Why I Like/Dislike Going to Church Camp

7 Reasons why I dislike going to church camp:

  1. I prefer my bed in my home, sleeping next to my wife.
  2. Some of the kids smell.
  3. The food can be not to my liking.
  4. I don’t get enough sleep.
  5. Sharing community restrooms and showers.
  6. I have to follow a camp schedule.
  7. I’m a Type A and kids don’t usually follow the script.

7 Reasons why I like going to church camp:

  1. It forces me out of my comfort zone and no where does Jesus say, “Please stay in your bed with your preferred foods with people who don’t smell.”
  2. Get to see lives changed!  People come to know Christ and that changes their eternal destiny!
  3. Get to be a part of the “A-Ha” moments for children “getting it” for the first time.
  4. Building relationships that last a lifetime.
  5. Don’t have to cook for a week.
  6. Growing spiritually myself: “I don’t have to be in control when God’s better at it!”
  7. Bring home a new song for congregational worship.

So if you haven’t chaperoned or counseled at a church camp yet, what are you waiting for?

If God is all about Love why Does He Get Angry in the Bible?

Jeremiah 31:3

He has loved us with an everlasting love.

Then why does it say he gets angry with a sinner?

Anger is one of the strongest evidences and expressions of God’s love.  If you had a child who lied, swore, and stole and you DIDN’T care what he does THAT would be a sign of no love, of indifference.  Because I love him, because I want him to grow up with integrity and character, it makes me angry to see him not live up to his potential and take that course.  Now how I channel that anger determines whether it is motivated out of love or something sinful in my own spirit.

God loves the sinner that he gets angry with them, with us, when we willfully disobey.

Criticism is not a Spiritual Gift

Criticism is a two-edged sword in the life of a leader.  On the one hand, a leader who only surrounds himself with “yes men” limits his perspective.  On the other hand, the voice of too many critics will leave a pastor wanting to bail on ministry and find a new vocation.

James 3:17 says,

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure: then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

There are eight characteristics given in this verse.  If someone comes with a pure heart and no ulterior motive, is peaceful and not hostile, is considerate in word choice, has a history of being submissive and not rebellious, speaks with mercy and is not accusatory, has good fruit in their life, is impartial in the sense that they aren’t going to profit from the decision, and they speak with sincerity, then we should be all ears.  As you can imagine, few pass this test.  Does this mean everything they said was wrong?  No.  however, the lack of these characteristics raises red flags as I’m listening.

Many times, when a person criticizes a leader, there can be a kernel of truth in what’s spoken.  Some people just don’t have tact.  If you can get past the anger and rudeness, there may be something for leaders to learn.  This is not easy to do.  It’s nearly impossible to gain that kernel of truth from only one comment even if they say, “There’s a group of us concerned….”  I always ask for each person in the “group” to come talk to me but that has never materialized which even erodes that person’s credibility more.  Yet, if you hear the same criticism repeatedly, even if the messenger can’t communicate in a loving way, good leaders try to sift through the chaff to find the kernel of truth.

Chronic complainers don’t stop complaining with explanation; they simply look for something else to complain about.  Argumentative people are always looking for arguments.

It is unhealthy for pastors to listen to continual negativity.  This wears pastors down and eventually leads many ministers to abandon the ministry.  So pastor, surround yourself with people who believe in you, who in believe in what God has called you to do, and who are loyal to you as a leader, but also value honesty.  If a criticism has merit, it will make its way through the ranks and get to the appropriate channels.  If not, then those with the “gift of criticism” may have to find another church.

Why I Don’t Give to Panhandlers

There are many reasons including the below video.  Helping the hurting should be done in relationship in comprehensive ways that actually help them, not enable them.  So support organizations and ministries that help people who are REALLY hurting systemically so that they can get out of the cycle of poverty.

There is a Great Difference between the Love of God and our Love

You will have problems if you teach a child that God loves him ONLY as long as he is good AND that when he is bad the Lord does not love him.  When he grows up , if he has a bad temper, he will have the idea that God hates him.  He will think God doesn’t love him when he has a bad temper.  And, as he has a bad tempter all the time, he will conclude that God does not love him at all, but hates him all the time.

Now God hates sin, but loves the sinner.  There is a great difference between the love of God and our love–all the difference in the world between the human and divine love.

Moral Living is not why Jesus Died

It bothers me to believe that God would localize salvation in one solitary person–in Jesus.  But that’s what the Scriptures plainly say.  There’s no way of getting around that without gutting the Scriptures.  I’ve looked for a loophole.  None exists.

Even today, I prefer to talk about the tragedy of people living and dying without knowing Jesus, rather than to get near the subject of the eternal consequences.  Deep down in my heart, I know the truth of the matter–without Jesus people are in serious trouble.  Believing that is the only reason I would ever consider giving my entire life to the ministry of Christ.  Not believing it is why so many pastors and leaders can spend all their time in struggling churches playing nursemaid to a bunch of spiritual pygmies.  They have no urgency to share the Good News.  They don’t believe that people’s eternal destinies hang in the balance.  Since Jesus isn’t the only hope to the world to them, Christianity is a way of living morally rather than a life and death issue.

There’s nothing wrong with moral living; it should be the outcome of any legitimate faith.  But moral living is not why Jesus died.  Jesus died to save everyone from their sin.  To not believe that guts any form of urgency to give one’s life to spread the Good News.

Clues to a Spiritually Alive Church

Someone asked me after the last post, “OK, now you’ve given us an idea how to discern a dying church, what characterizes an alive one?”

Clues:

  • The church turns outward in its focus;
  • Jesus, not the institution, will become the object of our affection;
  • The Great Commission will become our mandate, and we will measure everything we do  by how many converts we make rather than whether we have a black financial bottom line;
  • Membership in the Kingdom will replace membership in the local church as our focus;
  • Pastors will cease being chaplains of pastoral care and will become modern-day apostles of Jesus Christ;
  • And those who try to control the church with an iron fist or intimidate the church at every turn of the road will be shown the door.

So, is your church alive?